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Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes


OBJECTIVES
FLOW AND LIFT PROCESSES

LIST THE SIX FORMS OF ARTIFICIAL LIFT FREQUENTLY USED IN


OIL PRODUCTION
IDENTIFY THE BASIC COMPONENTS OF EACH LIFT SYSTEM
MATCH LIFT TYPES TO RESERVOIR AND PRODUCING CONDITIONS

Introduction
Producing the oil and gas from a well and from the reservoir is preceded by the exploration work, then
drilling to test the structure, followed by completion procedures to set the tubulars and seal them with
cement. Perforating opens a path for flow, and subsurface equipment guides the flow. The production
rate obtained is the combined impact of reservoir delivery and wellbore plus flowline multiphase flow
pressure change. When reservoir pressure declines or water fraction increases, the wells natural flow
rate may be inadequate and artificial lift processes are implemented to increase or maintain rate.
Artificial lift is a procedure to either:
1. Increase the gas-liquid ratio to maintain natural flow or
2. Transfer energy down-hole to pump the fluid and raise its pressure.
The six methods of artificial lift are illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1 - Artificial lift methods

Flow and Lift Processes Introduction

John Martinez

Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

Gas lift is the process of injecting gas into the tubing string to reduce the flowing fluid mixture density.
The density reduction permits reservoir pressure to drive fluid to the surface facility.
Pumping is the process of using electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic energy down-hole to drive a pump,
which raises fluid pressure and drives it to the surface facility. Reservoir pressure drives fluid to the
pump. The pump options are:

Electric submersible pump


Sucker rod pump
Hydraulic positive displacement and jet pump
Progressive cavity pump

The questions to be resolved are: Which method? How does it work? What are the applications?

The enabling mechanism or fluid to implement lift and operating considerations for each type are:
Method

Enabling Mechanism

Gas lift
Plunger Lift

Operating Depth (TVD) Operating Volume*


(BPD)
High pressure gas
To - 15,000
To - 30,000
Reservoir pressure acting on To - 19,000
To - 50
plunger
Mechanical rods
To - 16,000
To - 5,000

Sucker rod
pump
Electric
Electrical power cable
To - 15,000
submersible
pump
Progressive
Mechanical rods
To - 6,000
cavity pump
Hydraulic jet
High pressure liquid
To - 15,000
pump
*The maximum operating volume decreases with increasing depth.

200 - 30,000

To - 4,500
300 ->15,000

Gas Lift
Gas lift is a natural flow process in that the reservoir pressure is the driving energy to push fluid to the
wellbore, up to the wellhead, and into the surface facility. The wellbore, surface facility, and reservoir
responses are the same for a natural flow well and for a gas lifted well.
The purpose of gas lift? To reduce the density of the flowing mixture of gas, oil, and water by increasing
the gas-liquid ratio with gas injection into the tubing through a gas lift valve or orifice. Best lift occurs
when injection is at a deep point in the wellbore. Gas lift is best applied when one or more of these
characteristics are present:

Reservoir fluid has a high gas content


Well has a good reservoir productivity (PI)
Reservoir pressure can be maintained
Fluid has entrained solids detrimental to pumps (reservoir fines, scale, paraffin, asphaltine, corrosion
products)
Wellbore workover cost is high (offshore, international operations)

Flow and Lift Processes Gas Lift

John Martinez

Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

Gas lift gas (or nitrogen or CO2 circulation through coiled tubing) causes density reduction, which reduces
flowing bottomhole pressure (Pwf). This benefit is attained by:

Improving the gas to liquid ratio, supplementing reservoir gas


Increasing the mixture velocity
Changing the vapor-liquid distribution (flow pattern) to one with better mixing and reduced liquid
holdup
Reducing wellhead back-pressure to promote gas expansion

Gas lift is implemented by installing a system, Figure 2, that has the following components:

High pressure compressor, dehydration,


and distribution pipeline(s)
Gas measurement and control
Injection of gas in the tubing-casing
annulus
Gas lift valve and downhole mandrel(s)
on the tubing
Low pressure production separator
Gas return to compressor

Figure 2 - Gas lift system

The most frequently used gas lift


valve is an injection pressure
operated (IPO) valve. The valve has
a closing pressure set by the
nitrogen pressure (Pbt) inside the
bellows. The pressure to keep the
valve open is controlled by the
injection (casing) gas pressure (Pg)
applied to the outside of the bellows
plus the multiphase (tubing) fluid
pressure (Pf) below the port.
Figure 3 shows the valve on a gas
lift mandrel in the well and the
pressure applied by the nitrogen,
gas, and tubing fluid. The valve is a
backpressure regulator and is set in
the shop, at the calculated test rack
opening (TRO) pressure, Pvo.
Figure 3 - Gas lift valve in well and in test rack
Flow and Lift Processes Gas Lift

John Martinez

Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

The schematic drawing of


gas lift valves in a well are
shown in Figure 4. The
valves are in gas lift
mandrels,
which
are
attached to the tubing.
For offshore wells, wireline
retrievable valves are
used.
The upper valves
are only used to unload
the workover fluid, while a
deeper valve is the
operating (injection) point,
which causes the gradient
(density) change shown.

Figure 4 Gas lift schematic and pressure gradient graph

The gas lift well


in the field is
identical to the
natural
flow
well with the
addition of the
gas lift gas line
to the tubingcasing annulus,
Figure 5. The
reservoir fluid
and gas lift gas
flow up the
tubing, into the
wellhead, and
out
the
production
flowline to the
separator
station.
Figure 5 - Gas lift wells in Texas (left) and the Middle East (right)

Flow and Lift Processes Gas Lift

John Martinez

Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes


Plunger Lift

The plunger is shown Figure 6, and numerous options


are available. The device rests on the bumper spring
shown in illustration at right. The controller opens the
well to flow, and the lubricator, catcher, and sensor on
top of the existing wellhead retain the plunger when it
surfaces. The controller timer shuts the well and
releases the plunger, which falls to the bumper spring to
start a new cycle, shown in the schematic at right.

Figure 6 Plungers (left) and well schematic (right)


Plunger Lift Well

Plungers can be used to aid intermittent gas


lift or to lift liquids accumulating in gas wells,
Figure 7. The application in lift design is for
relatively low liquid rates. The well is shut in
with the surface wellhead control valve, as
shown at left, and the liquid column builds in
the tubing. The well is opened and the
differential pressure drives the plunger to the
wellhead catcher, causing a slug of liquid to
be lifted above it. If gas lift gas is used
intermittently, the slug size lifted can be a
greater volume.
The cycle of shut in, unloading of the slug
with the plunger, and afterflow (mostly vapor
with liquid mist) is repeated periodically,
based on a field operators judgment of
optimum time. Production testing to obtain
rate versus cycle time is used determine the
optimum.

Figure 7 Plungers equipment on well

Flow and Lift Processes Plunger Lift

John Martinez

Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

Pumping Methods
Pumping is a different process
than gas lift. For pumping, the
reservoir pressure is the driving
energy to push fluid to the pump
suction intake, not to the
surface.
Using the energy
transferred downhole, the pump
then raises the fluid pressure to
drive it up to the wellhead, and
into the surface facility, Figure 8.
The pumping advantage is that
reservoir pressure can decline
much lower than that for natural
flow or for a gas lift well.

Figure 8 - Pump schematic and pressure gradient graph


The purpose of pumping? To transfer energy down-hole to pump the fluid and raise its pressure. The
selection is electrical, mechanical, or hydraulic energy transferred down-hole to drive a centrifugal,
reciprocating, progressive-cavity (screw), or jet pump. Pumping is best applied when:

Reservoir fluid has a low gas content


Reservoir pressure is allowed to decline but gas does not increase
No solids are in the reservoir fluid
Wellbore workover cost is low (domestic operations onshore)

Pump systems transfer the energy in a variety of methods:

Electric submersible pumps use cable strapped to the tubing to power the submerged motor, which
drives the multistage centrifugal pump. An option is cable attached to the motor/pump assembly and
suspended similar to wireline operations.
Sucker rod pumps use a rod string lifted by the surface beam pump to reciprocate the down-hole
positive displacement pump.
Hydraulic jet pumps use pressurized crude oil or water from the surface high-pressure pumps to
create a high velocity jet stream that has a venturi effect and inspirates reservoir fluid.
Hydraulic reciprocating pumps use pressurized crude oil or water from the surface high-pressure
pumps to power a down-hole engine pump that is directly connected to the reservoir fluid
reciprocating pump.
Progressive cavity pumps use the rod string and a motor driver at the surface to rotate the
progressive cavity screw pump.

Flow and Lift Processes Pumping Methods

John Martinez

Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

Electrical submergible pumping system surface facilities consist of:

Generators or access to a power system and


power distribution high lines or cable
Transformers and connectors to the wellhead

PROTECTOR

CABLE

The downhole electrical submergible components


are:
Electrical power cable in the annulus
Electrical submersible motor
Motor protector
Centrifugal pump
A manufacturers rendition of the electric
submersible pump/motor assembly is given in
Figure 9. The rate design for the pump must
closely match reservoir delivery unless a variable
frequency drive is used to alter motor speed and
pump throughput.
PUMP

MOTOR

Figure 9 - Electric submersible pump assembly

The wellhead of the electric


submersible pump system
must have an electric cable
entering. Figure 10 shows
wells on a Thums Long Beach
facility with deviated wellbores
and close proximity wellheads.
A special penetrator is used to
conduct power through the
wellhead and yet remain
sealed to prevent leakage of
reservoir fluids.

Figure 10 - Wellheads of
submersible pump wells

Flow and Lift Processes Pumping Methods

John Martinez

Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

Sucker
rod
pumping
system surface facilities
consist of:

Access to a power
system
and
electric
motor to drive the
surface beam pump, or a
Gas
engine
driver
connected to the beam
pump

The pumping components,


Figure 11, are many but the
primary items are:

Beam pumping unit at


the surface
Sucker rod string
Downhole tubing pump
or insert rod pump

Figure 11 - Beam pump components

The
beam
pump,
Figure 12, is the
indicator of the sucker
rod pump in the well.
Also called a pump
BEAM BALANCED
LOW PROFILE
CONVENTIONAL
jack,
the
surface
pumping unit lifts the
rod string, downhole pump, and fluid load. The beam pump is sized according to the fluid production rate
and depth of lift.

Figure 12 Beam pump


(pump-jack)

MARK II

AIR BALANCED

Flow and Lift Processes Pumping Methods

PORTABLE

John Martinez

Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

The down-hole sucker rod pump is shown in


Figure 13. The rods reciprocate the plunger
inside the pump barrel. The two check ball
valves serve to fill the barrel chamber (standing
valve) and then let the fluid be displaced above
the plunger and be pumped up to the surface
(traveling valve).
The lower standing valve opens during the up
stroke (at left) when the barrel chamber
pressure is less than the inflow pressure. The
upper traveling valve (at right) opens during the
down stroke when pressure in the chamber
rises above the discharge pressure in the tubing
above the plunger. If the fluid in the chamber is
gassy, then it must be compressed before the
traveling valve can open.
This reciprocating pump is hampered by gas
flashing at pump intake pressure and by solids
in the fluid.
Figure 13 - Sucker rod tubing pump

Hydraulic pumping uses a surface pump to pressurize produced water or crude oil, depending on which
is readily available, to drive a downhole pump. The components are:

Surface high pressure injection pump and


pipeline
Injection tubing
Downhole assembly to hold pump
Positive displacement or jet pump (downhole)

The reciprocating hydraulic pump uses the high


pressure injection power fluid, red in Figure 14, to
drive the engine pump, which in turn drives the
reservoir fluid pump. Ball check valves and a
double acting pump forces the reservoir fluid to the
surface.

Figure 14 - Reciprocating hydraulic pump

Flow and Lift Processes Pumping Methods

John Martinez

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Flow and Lift Processes


The jet pump uses the high-pressure power fluid to
create a high velocity venturi effect in the nozzle to
throat gap (production inlet chamber) of the
downhole pump, Figure 15. The low pressure
induced in the gap causes reservoir production
fluid to flow into the throat. The two fluids mix in
the diffuser section, pressure recovery occurs, and
the combined fluids flow back to the surface.

Figure 15 - Hydraulic jet pump components

The hydraulic pump well has wellhead


connections to the power fluid manifold, Figure
16. The return production line must carry the
power fluid plus produced reservoir fluid, where
the power fluid required can range from 1 to 3
barrels for each barrel of produced fluid.

Figure 16 - Hydraulic pumped well

Flow and Lift Processes Pumping Methods

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Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

Progressive cavity pumps use the principle of the


screw and interference fit of the helix and the
elastomer in the case to drive fluid to the surface,
Figure 17. The helix is driven by rods from a
surface motor, or directly connected to a
submerged motor.

Figure 17 - Progressive cavity pump

The surface drive motor for a


progressive cavity pump is
illustrated at left in Figure 18,
and the starter and variable
speed drive are at right.
Sucker rods are used to
transmit
motion
to
the
downhole pump, but the rods
are
rotated
rather
than
reciprocated.
Bottom drive
with a submersible motor can
also be done, which eliminates
the rods.
Figure 18 - Progressive
cavity pump and motor drive

Flow and Lift Processes Pumping Methods

John Martinez

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Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

The proper application of each lift type is related to the reservoir fluid, reservoir pressure, and production
rate delivery as determined by inflow and multiphase outflow. Lift selection guidelines are:
Rod Lift

Progressing
Cavity

Gas Lift

Plunger
Lift

Hydraulic
Piston

Hydraulic
Jet

Electric
Submersible

To
16,000 TVD

To
6,000 TVD

To
15,000 TVD

To
19,000 TVD

To
17,000 TVD

To
15,000 TVD

To
15,000 TVD

To
5000 BPD

To
4,500 BPD

To
30,000 BPD

To 50 BPD

50 - 4,000
BPD

300 - >15,000
BPD

200 - 30,000
BPD

100 550 F

75-250 F

100 400 F

120 500 F

100 500 F

100 500 F

100 400 F

Corrosion
Handling

Good to
Excellent

Fair

Good to
Excellent

Excellent

Good

Excellent

Good

Gas
Handling

Fair to
Good

Fair

Excellent

Excellent

Fair

Good

Poor to
Fair

Solids
Handling

Fair to
Good

Excellent

Good

Poor to
Fair

Poor

Good

Poor
to Fair

Fluid
Gravity

>8 API

<35 API

>15 API

GLR Required 300 SCF/BBL/


1000 Depth

>8 API

>8 API

>10 API

Workover or
Pulling Rig
Gas Engine
or Electric

Workover or
Pulling Rig
Gas Engine
or Electric

Hydraulic or
Wireline
Gas Engine
or Electric

Hydraulic or
Wireline
Gas Engine
or Electric

Workover or
Pulling Rig
Electric
Motor

Limited

Good

Excellent

N/A

Good

Excellent

Excellent

45% - 60%

40% - 70%

10% - 30%

N/A

45% - 55%

10% - 30%

35% - 60%

Operating
Depth
Operating
Volume (Typical)
Operating
Temperature

Servicing
Prime Mover
Offshore
Application
Overall System
Efficiency

Wellhead
Wireline or
Workover Rig Catcher or Wireline
Wells Natural
Compressor
Energy

GAS LIFT IS PREFERRED FOR


AN OFFSHORE WELL WITH HIGH WORKOVER COSTS
WELLS THAT PRODUCE SAND OR OTHER SOLIDS
HIGH PRODUCTION RATE, RESERVOIR PRODUCTIVITY AND PRESSURE
HIGH GLR (GAS-LIQUID RATIO)

PUMPING IS PREFERRED FOR


AN ONSHORE WELL WITH LOW WORKOVER COSTS
WELLS THAT PRODUCE CLEAN FLUIDS
LOW GLR (GAS-LIQUID RATIO)
SUBMERSIBLE PUMPS FOR:
HIGH PRODUCTION RATE, RESERVOIR PRODUCTIVITY AND PRESSURE
BEAM OR HYDRAULIC PUMPS FOR:
LOW PRODUCTION RATE, RESERVOIR PRODUCTIVITY AND PRESSURE
PROGRESSIVE CAVITY PUMPS FOR:
HEAVY OIL, SANDY FLUID, SHALLOW TO MODERATE DEPTH LIFT

Flow and Lift Processes Pumping Methods

John Martinez

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Section 1

Flow and Lift Processes

SUMMARY
FLOW AND LIFT PROCESSES

GAS LIFT IS AN EXTENSION OF NATURAL FLOW

PUMPING USES ENERGY DOWN-HOLE TO RAISE FLUID PRESSURE

CHOICE BASED ON RATE, RESERVOIR, AND COST CONDITIONS

Flow and Lift Processes Pumping Methods

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